Until a few weeks ago I had a MK2 172, but it had to go for financial reasons. However, I still needed a newish hot hatch (seeing as my 205 GTi is in bits at the moment!) and I settled on the 206 GTi, despite the panning it has taken from critics since its release as I found one at a reasonable price and I thought itd be cool to have a 206 GTi to go with the 205 GTi. Anyway, having had the chance to get to know the 206 now (after my initial disappointment at not having the Clio), Ive written what I feel to be the main negatives and positives of the car:
Soft suspension and high ride height (not necessarily bad though, see good points!)
185/55 tyres. WHY?????? (but fixable)
Long, long, looooong gear stick throw (fixable, again. Have bought a quick shift kit from Griff Engineering for £40, but not had it fitted yet).
Dismal seats and driving position. This car is so difficult to get comfortable in. The driver can either have their back against the seat and the headrest exactly 3 miles away, or their head close to the headrest, but no support at all for their back. Nothing that couldn’t be solved by changing the seats, but FFS, why couldn’t Peugeot get this right in the first place. I get into my 15 year old 205 GTi and enjoy small, but perfectly formed seats, so why not in the 206??? (Fixable, but expensive)
It’s so quiet! There is just no need for that much sound insulation on a GTi of any description. (Fixable - remove the bloody insulation!!!)
When I initially got it, it under steered terribly. I used to love roundabouts when I had the 172. When I first got the 206, I feared them! Throw it at a corner, and it would plough on straight ahead. This was such a shame as I could really feel the potential in the chassis. I’ve had a good look under the car, and the suspension set up looks very similar to that of my 205 1.9 GTi, so I couldn’t figure out why it was doing this. My hunch was that the skinny 185/55 tyres were not wide enough and not grippy enough to deal with the weight at the front of the car. It also had some awful budget tyres fitted (Nankang Tyre Company or something!). This was just about my biggest gripe with the car, until I had 4 195/50 Pirrelli P6000s fitted yesterday. Much, much better. Some of the understeer is still there, but the car generally feels very well balanced in hard cornering now and inspires a lot of confidence. It isn’t as sharp as my 172, but then again I disliked the handling of that until I had it lowered, so I’m going to reserve judgement until I have had the same done to the Pug. (Should be fixable...will find out when its lowered).
The roads around me go from "not great" surfaces to "absolutely dismal". After having the new tyres fitted, I went and had a good thrash through some of these back roads and it feels like a little rally car. It seems to have an infinite amount of grip (apart from when it takes off!), can be chucked around bumpy corners nearly sideways and still keep excellent body control and in wet conditions it really excels. I reckon this is largely due to the excessive ride height and soft springs that I mentioned earlier. Not so great for smooth surfaces, but if there is any such thing in Sheffield, I haven’t found it!
The engine – to say it is lacking so much horsepower compared to the 172, it is a real gem of an engine. It revs to about 6.5k with peak power at 6k, but what I really like about it is the amount of torque and its availability. The car can be driven very quickly at low revs. I used to drive the 172 around at about 4500rpm so I always had access to the power when needed, but the Pug can be driven at 2500rpm to similar effect. The actual pick up of the engine can seem slow, but it is certainly producing the power. When I had the rubbish tyres on, the power around 4k rpm was enough to make the wheels start to spin in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears! With the P6000s, it is possible to really get that power down. Nice!
Climate control unit – this really kicks ass on the unit in the MK2 172. Not a very "GTi" thing to have, I suppose, but it just works so well. Hard to explain, but it does a better job of keeping a constant, comfortable temperature in the car than the 172 managed.
Oh yeah, it doesnt rattle!!!
In my opinion, the 206, like the 172, is a good hot hatch, but a flawed one. Naturally, everyone compares the 206 unfavourably with the 205 like they do the same between the 172 and the Willy. However, when it comes down to it, both cars can be "sorted out" fairly easily. I only drove my 172 on the standard springs for a month as it felt too soft and unfocussed. With the lowering springs, the handling was excellent and I’m hoping I can do the same to the 206. While the 172 will murder the 206 in a straight line, I think that a lowered 206 would give a lowered 172 a run for its money in terms of handling. I think that the 206 GTi 180 should be very interesting indeed, providing Peugeot haven’t done anything stupid like giving it crappy seats and soggy springs!
Between the 172 and the 206, which car, in my opinion, is "best"? The 172, but not by as much as I initially thought.
I’m still interested in meeting up with Craggy to see how the 206 goes against his new VTS. I reckon that the VTS will slaughter the 206 in handling and 0-60 terms, but Craggy keeps mentioning 2.0 litre power……we shall see!
Take care and have a good Christmas,